Independent industry analysis

An independent economic and technical analysis of the Danish wind turbine industry concludes that NEG Micon, Vestas and Bonus are all well equipped to retain and expand their shares of the booming global market. But NEG Micon has a technical Achilles heel in its newest model, a 750 kW machine with many minor faults, according to Danish trade newspaper, The Engineer.

The economic picture for the two other major wind firms in Denmark, German owned Nordex Balcke-Dürr and Wincon West Wind, is a "bit more uncertain," states The Engineer. Their wind turbines are less well known in Denmark and in the analysis are not subjected to the same level of design scrutiny as the three leaders. Wincon is owned by the capital-strong Vestfrost group of Denmark. Nordex Balcke-Dürr is part of the huge Deutsche Babcock group.

The analysis was carried out for The Engineer by economist Peter Falk from Dansk Aktieanalyse, a company specialising in the evaluation of public companies, and by engineer Strange Skriver, technical consultant for the Danish association of wind turbine owners for the past eight years.

Marks awarded

Each wind turbine manufacturer was awarded two economic and two technical marks (table). The technical evaluation is based on a calculation of the price of electricity from each company's newest turbine model in a good inland wind regime and an appraisal of design based on a company's overall technological prowess, the quality of the finished turbine, its reliability, and the quality of O&M service. The Engineer places Bonus in first place because of its high technical marks, its stable growth over a number of years, its streamlined organisation's high productivity, and its good profit ratio. The company's small size places a limit on its growth potential, however, and only "modest" investment is made in marketing. "The turbines are normally thoroughly tested before entering the market and a solution is always found for the problems that arise. Generally there are few problems with their turbines," says Skriver. The company is strong enough to enter the offshore wind farm market, says Falk, as are both Vestas and NEG Micon.

Vestas follows close behind Bonus and receives the highest of all five design marks. Skriver points to the solid experience gained over a decade of operation of its pitch-regulated concept. "The new wind turbine is very advanced with its opti-slip system which results in a very even power production. Vestas is a very professional firm with tip-top service," he adds. Economically the company was strengthened by its stock exchange listing, is characterised by several years of stable growth, and has inherent strength gained from its market leadership.

Technical minus

For NEG Micon the picture is not quite as rosy. Economically its aggressive growth strategy can mean problems in the chain-of-command which reduces its investment security, says Falk, who warns of "significant fusion risk." The participation in ownership of wind power stations also represents "high risk." On its technical evaluation NEG Micon gets the lowest mark. "The turbine is very simple and uncomplicated and uses as few components as possible. Development of this turbine type has gone so fast, however, that it has come out half finished with many small faults," states Skriver. He also criticises the after-sales service.

NEG Micon's Jens-Erik Kristensen refutes the charge that the 750 kW is plagued by faults. He admits, however, to problems in the service department, according to the local newspaper in NEG Micon's home town, Randers Amtsavis. These are now solved and this fact is already reflected in the finished turbines, says Kristensen to the paper.

NEG Micon also comes under fire in WindStats Newsletter, a Windpower Monthly supplement. Although NEG Micon's three-point drive train concept has been called a trend setter in wind turbine design, "Many analysts feel, however, that NEG Micon is lagging behind in its technology and that more advanced first hour competitors like Vestas, Enercon and Tacke arewell ahead in the prestigious 1.5 MW class and above," reports WindStats in an article on the company in its autumn issue.